We’ve all been there, there’s been a dive only minutes away and you’re scared. Not the normal, excitement / jittery kind of butterflies – that’s a healthy dose of fear that keeps you sharp and makes sure you double check your equipment. No, this fear is just plain sick to the stomach, not feeling the dive kind of fear.
It happens. Sometimes you can’t explain why. Sometimes you can. When I was training, I was scared so much of the time I honestly thought I wouldn’t make a diver. I wasn’t feeling any sense of calm at all and diving was becoming a list of assessments; courses that I needed to pass and it was overwhelming. I felt like I didn’t have time, or a buddy, to go on a pleasure dive and take the time to just be still in the water and learn to be calm there. Baring this in mind, to help overcome fears I have a little list because sometimes you still need to face your fears to get rid of them. So here are a list of things that hopefully can help someone else overcome their fears.
Before a dive if you are scared;
- Take the pressure away. You never have to get in the water, even if you are on a course as opposed to a pleasure dive, you can always come back to the course / dive site when you are more confident and comfortable. The is one rule a diver is told at the beginning of the course “A diver can call a dive at any time, for any reason”, if you don’t want to go in, you don’t even to have give a reason, other divers will understand. At the end of the day, diving is for enjoyment. If you aren’t enjoying, why go? There will always be other opportunities. Once you take that pressure away, it’s easier to relax.
- Check your equipment. Yes you do buddy checks but as you’re putting all your equipment together just check your regs work, smell your air and make sure there is no wear and tear in any of your equipment. Even a very quick perusal of your equipment as you’re setting up will remind you that everything is in working order and your mind can rest easy.
- Talk about what is scaring you. Chances are a fellow diver can talk you through it and has probably even felt the same at one point or another. If they haven’t, just airing you fears can help you feel better because it’s no longer bottled up inside of you.
- Keep your skills fresh If you know you are trained and you recently went through your skills, in case anything went wrong, you know you can deal with it. Preparation should make you feel more confident to go on the dive so (amongst other skills)make sure you are never afraid of filling up your mask and clearing it, or taking out your reg and replacing it.
And if you’re scared while diving?
- Breath. This is key. Not for survival but for you to focus on something other than your fear. Try to think about the breaths, notice when you breathe in and breathe out. Realising you are breathing can ground you enough to signal to your buddy that you want to end the dive.
- Look around. Most people dive to see incredible things and it’s amazing what you don’t see when your mind is focused on fear. I missed so much as a newbie diving from being scared; my instructor took me back in the water at one point because I had missed a particular fish we had all been circled round admiring, because I hadn’t even noticed it! That was also the day I learnt what surge was – I was simply too focus on “just getting through the dive” I didn’t take the time to appreciate something as simple as the way the water moved around me. Besides, if you see something interesting – and you are very likely to – it can not only take your mind off the fear but that’s why you’re diving! Sometimes you need to take a moment and look around to remember the reason why you are there.
- Have a minute. I do this a lot. I signal to my buddy that I want to look around, or pause. In the beginning I asked for this moment a lot. Take the time to stop swimming and just stay stationary. Here you can either breath, or think about what scares you and how to deal with that. Look to your buddy for reassurance and if you aren’t reassured this is the chance to decide whether or not you should be underwater. That moment is for you to think about the situation you are in, and what you want to do about it. A buddy will understand if you need / want to call a dive, or take a minute. .
- Be realistic. I repeat, a diver can end a dive or refuse to go on a dive whenever they want. If you’re are feeling overwhelmed in the water you have a decision to make. Do you want to carry on with the dive? Do you want to signal to your buddy or do you want to get out? Fear can become panic very quickly though. This needs to be a very REALISTIC decision. Ask yourself if your fear is too much? There is no shame in ending a dive early. A buddy would rather you end a dive safely and calmly than have to take control because you hit panic mode. If you don’t think you can carry on with the dive, do end it. Being a panicked diver is not nice. All thought goes out your head at that point (I know this from experience), when your only though is to get to the surface it’s instinctive and frightening. Stop yourself from becoming a panicked diver by making the decision early enough that you need to be on land and try a dive another day.
The last piece of advice I can give if diving scares you – don’t give up! If you want to dive don’t worry, it might take you a lot of dives to become comfortable in the water but you will, if you carry on. Just keep your buddy informed, remember to keep smiling and take it at your pace. Diving is a hobby – that means it’s your adventure to explore at your pace.
I hope this helps 😊
Lil Scuba Diver